Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins
Chang and Eng, born in 1811 in Melange, Siam, gave a new phrase to the English Language. They were
the first, the original Siamese Twins, a term used to describe any two humans being joined at birth by
When news of the strange and
unusual reached the king of Siam, he decided the babies should be put to death. King Rama II thought
such a birth was an evil sign, an omen that something bad was going to happen. As time passed and no
disaster occurred, King Rama II withdrew his decree of death for the twins. As young boys, Chang and Eng
loved to fish with their fisherman father. They learned to use the oars and row with great ease. Their arms
and legs grew stronger each year.
At the age of 16, Chang and Eng were presented to King Rama III of Siam. Shortly thereafter their newly
acquired managers, Captain Coffin and Robert Hunter made plans to exhibit them throughout the world.
For the next several years they were exhibited before hundreds of thousands of people. In England they
bowed before kings and queens, prince, and princesses, but by the end of the evening, the royalty was
bowing to them. Chang and Eng entertained their customers. Battledore and shuttlecock was a popular
British game at that time. The twins had played it in Siam. The object was to hit a shuttlecock, a small
cork ball with feathers on one side, back and forth. The audiences oohed and aahed as they watched
the twins play. Chang and Eng moved across the floor with ease and grace of a couple skillfully waltzing.
They answered questions from their audiences with
clear and grammatically correct English.
In 1829 they left their country for America, and traveled over the whole of this continent, England, France,
and other countries, exciting the admiration of the crowds and others who had reported upon this singular
phenomenon in the natural world.
Tired from being exhibited for ten years, the young men decided to settle in a small town in North Carolina.
Wilkesboro was one of hundreds of small towns the men had been exhibited in some two years previously.
In this small town they found a peacefulness and a new home.
Chang and Eng loved this new countryside, where the mountains reached to the sky and the streams flowed
across fertile soil. The people were friendly and sincere. When they talked they spoke of their families and their
crops. Coming with $10,000, Chang and Eng purchased a retail store and sold everything from linen to
"chawing" tobacco. Unfortunately, times were hard for area residents and the twins gave up their store and decided
to take up farming and built a house in Traphill, a community in northern Wilkes County.
In 1839, Chang and Eng became citizens and acquired their new name of Bunker. This was about the same time
they became interested in the Yates sisters, Sallie and Adelaide. After courting for several years, the foursome
were married at the Yates house. After a wedding party, they were off to their Traphill home where they shared
a large bed built for four.
The people of the community thought surely no children would come of this union. However, nine months after
the wedding, Eng and Sallie welcomed their first born daughter. Six days later, Chang and Adelaide welcomed
their first daughter also. This continued until Eng and Sallie had produced 11 children. Chang and Adelaide were
almost as productive producing 10 children.
As times grew harder and children increased, problems became numerous. The two sisters fought and put Chang
and Eng into the middle of their battles. Soon the brothers turned against each other and bitter fights erupted,
Chang drowning his problems in whiskey and Eng playing poker, therefore two houses were needed. These two
houses were built in White Plains, Surry County, NC and less then two miles separated them. The wives lived
apart, only Eng and Chang shared three days with Sallie and her children and then three days with Adelaide and
her children. This arrangement continued for the rest of their lives. When times got rough, Eng and Chang would
go on exhibit for a year, each taking a child who also performed in the show.
After many childhood illnesses and a stroke suffered by Chang, the twins shared their lives until the end when
on a cold morning, January 17, 1874, Eng woke to find his brother cold. When he realized Chang was dead, Eng
began to sweat and feel faint. He died less than thirty minutes later. They are buried in the White Plains Church
Cemetery in Surry County, NC, the church they helped to establish.